This page was last updated on July 2, 2016.

r i c h a r d T. W. a r t h u r

p r o f e s s o r . o f . p h i l o s o p h y, . m c m a s t e r . u n i v e r s i t y

a r t i c l e s   o n l i n e

research interests | what's new | courses online | articles online | upcoming conferences | my c.v.
what's new
  • July 13-29, 2016: Funded research at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin on either side of attending the Leibniz-Kongress in Hanover, Germany, where I will present two papers.
  • June 2016: Paper "On the Mathematization of Free Fall: Galileo, Descartes and a History of Miscontrual", published in The Language of Nature: Reassessing the Mathematization of Natural Philosophy in the Seveneenth Century, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol, 28, ed. Geoffrey Gorham, Benjamin Hill, Edward Slowik and C. Kenneth Waters, pp. 81-111.
  • May 4-June 2, 2016: research leave in Paris with SPHERE (séminaire d'histoire et de philosophie des mathématiques) at Université de Paris-Diderot, meeting with PhD students working in early modern math, and giving three presentations: "Leibniz's infinitsimals and their interpretation" (May 9) "L'espace-temps l'analyse situs de Leibniz" (May 20) and "Some remarks on my article 'Leibniz's syncategorematic infnitesimals' " (May 24) at the invitation of Prof. David Rabouin.
  • May 13, 2016: submitted finished co-edited edition of Russell's "Notes on Leibniz" made in preparation for his Cambridge lectures in 1898, for the journal Russell.
  • May 3, 2016: submitted complete manuscript of Ariadnean Threads: Leibniz on substance and the composition of matter (347 pp.) to Oxford University Press, for readers' review.
  • April 25, 2016: completed and submitted "Thought Experiments in Newton and Leibniz" for the Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments, edited by James Robert Brown, Yiftach Fehige and Michael T. Stuart.
  • April 7, 2016: presented "On the Hegelian Roots of Russell's Critique of Leibniz" to the Early Modern Philosophy Seminar at Western University.
  • February 24, 2016: completed final editing of "Leibniz, Organic Matter and Astrobiology" for the volume Tercentenary Essays on the Philosophy and Science of G. W. Leibniz .
  • February 12, 2016: presented a paper on "Scaliger, Sennert, Boyle and the Origins of Leibniz's Theory of Forms", as the keynote address at the workshop on Early Modern Philosophy and Intellectual History at the University of Toyama, Toyama, Japan.
  • February 10, 2016: gave a public lecture at the Unversity of Tokyo on "Leibniz from the Perspective of Modern Science", with commentary by Dr. Hiroyuki Inaoka and Dr. Kosuke Abe.
  • September 2015: began writing a handbook article on Newton and Leibniz, requested for the Routledge Companion to Thought Experiments,.
  • August 2015: completed a joint article with Nicholas Griffin and Jolen Galaugher, "Marginalia in Russell's Copy of Gerhardt's edition of Leibniz's Philosophische Schriften " (103 pp), which has been accepted for the journal Russell. Together with an edition of Russell's notes on Leibniz in preparation for his lectures and Moore's notes on his lectures, also edited by us, it will form one complete issue of the journal.
  • July 4, 2015: presented a paper "Leibniz, Organic Matter and Astrobiology", to the international Conference at the Lampeter Campus of the University of Wales. Subsequently submitted for the conference volume Leibniz-scientist, Leibniz-philosopher.
  • May 25, 2015: presented "Leibniz's Infinitesimals and their Interpretation", at the Society for Exact Philosophy Annual Conference, at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.
  • April 15, 2015: presented "Spacetime in Leibniz's Analysis Situs", at the 42nd Annual Philosophy of Science Conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
  • April, 2015: began work on "Russell, Leibniz and the 'at-at' theory of motion and passage", my second chapter in Russell on Leibniz, co-authored with Nick Griffin and Jolen Galaugher.
  • April 2, 2015: finished and submitted revised draft of "Newton and Leibniz on the relativity of motion", an entry in The Oxford Handbook on Newton, ed. Chris Smeenk and Eric Schliesser.
  • March 26, 2015: finished draft of "The many ironies of Russell's critique of Leibniz's relationalism" (41 pages), a chapter in Russell on Leibniz, co-authored with Nick Griffin and Jolen Galaugher.
  • February 9, 2015: gave the Origins Colloquium on "Leibniz, Organic Matter and Astrobiology", in the Origins Institute, McMaster University.
  • February 9, 2015: contract signed with Springer for a book defending the reality of temporal passage in modern physics, tentatively titled Passing Time: the reality of local becoming in modern physics .
  • January 12, 2015: presented "The many ironies of Russell's critique of Leibniz's relationalism" to the Dept. of Philosophy, McMaster University.
  • January 9, 2015: presented "Leibniz's infinitesimals and their interpretation" to the Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University.
  • October, 2014: My latest book, Leibniz, in the Classic Thinkers series of Polity Press, is released in North America. Reviews coming soon in the Leibniz Review, the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and the Time Literary Supplement.
  • July 1, 2014: Presented paper "Spacetime in Leibniz's Analysis Situs", at the conference The Science of Space: Geometry and Metaphysics in Leibniz, at the Max Planck Institute for the Mathematics in the Sciences, Leipzig.
  • June 24, 2014: Presented paper "Motion Geometrically Considered, and Motion with Respect to Cause" at the conference The Mechanization of Geometry: from Antiquity to the Modern Age, at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, staged jointly by the MPIWG and the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa.
  • June 21, 2014: Presented paper "Leibniz on the relativity of motion", to the Institute for History and Foundations of Science, Utrecht, Netherlands.
  • June 11, 2014: Submitted an article "Newton and Leibniz on the relativity of motion", for the Oxford Handbook on Newton ed. Chris Smeenck and Eric Schliesser.
  • May 26, 2014: Commented on a paper by Adam Harmer at the CPA Annual Meeting, "Leibniz and Descartes Against Material Monism", and chaired a session by on a paper by Gülberk Koç on "Bertand Russell's Neutral Monism".
  • May 24, 2014: Took part in a plenary session (author-meets-critics) at the CSHPS Annual Meeting, presenting "Comments on Lee Smolin's Time Reborn".
  • March 2014: Corrected proofs for my book Leibniz, forthcoming from Polity Press in August (UK & Australia) and October (Canada and US).
  • March 2014: Visited the University of Lethbridge as external reviewer for their MA programs.
  • January-April 2014: worked in the Russell Archives with Nicholas Griffin and Jolen Galaugher on three co-authored articles detailing Russell's marginalia on his copies of Gerhardt's editions of Leibniz's works.
  • December 2013: Review of Klaas ven Berkel's Isaac Beeckman on Matter and Motion  accepted for publication by HOPOS in their Spring 2014 issue.
  • November 2013: Submitted article, "The relativity of motion as a motivation for substantial forms", for a volume Leibniz's metaphysics: the adoption of substantial forms under contract with Springer.
  • October 2013: Submitted article on Descartes on Time for the Descartes Lexicon.
  • September 2013: Submitted article "Massimo Mugnai and the Study of Leibniz" for the Leibniz Review.
  • September 2013: Submitted translation and commentary of Leibniz's Principia mechanica for the Leibniz Review.
  • September 2013: Completed and submitted manuscript of Leibniz to the publishers, Polity Press, for readers' review.
  • May 29, 2013: presented "Physical indivisibles in matter and motion: remarks on Scaliger, Beeckman and Leibniz", for a workshop on Finite Geometry, Indivisibles and Minima from the Middle Ages to the 18th Century, at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.
  • May 22, 24, 2013: lectured on and discussed my dialogue "Leibniz in Cantor's Paradise", in two sessions at the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy .
  • May 15, 2013: presented "Points of view, substantial forms and the situations of monads", for the Oltenia Colloquium in Early Modern Philosophy, University of Craiova, Bucharest, Romania.
  • May 11, 2013: submitted complete draft of "On the mathematization of free fall: Galileo, Descartes and a history of misconstruals", for a volume on The Mathematization of Nature, in the Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science Series.
  • April 4, 2013: presented "Points of view: the relevance of the relativity of motion to Leibniz's revised concept of substantial form", at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto.
  • March 22-23, 2013: commented on Adam Harmer's "Corporeal Substances and Composite Unities in Leibniz" at the Spinoza-Leibniz Workshop in Toronto.
  • March 22, 2013: my 16,700 word "Leibniz's Syncategorematic Infinitesimals " accepted for publication in Archive for History of Exact Sciences .
  • February 2012-July 2013: Working on drafts of chapters of my Leibniz for Polity Press.
  • October 19-20, 2013: presented "Leibniz on the Relativity of Motion", at the 6th Annual Conference of the Leibniz Society of North America at Concordia University in Montreal.
  • October 11-14, 2012: attended workshop on the Language of Nature at the Rotman Institute at Western University, where my paper "The Premodern Theory of Motion: Galileo and Descartes", was presented and discussed.
  • May, 2012: presented "Vexed Relations: the many ironies of Russell's Critique of Leibniz's Relationalism" to the First Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of the History of Analytic Philosophy in Hamilton, and "Leibniz on the Relativity of Motion" to the CSHPS in Waterloo, Ontario.
  • April, 2012: presented "Leibniz on the Relativity of Motion" to the IHPST in Toronto and to the Annual Philosophy of Science Conference at the International Centre in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

upcoming conferences and talks

"Monadic States, Continuous Creation and Leibniz's Law of Continuity", for a session on Leibniz and the continuum at the Leibniz Kongress in Hanover, Germany, July 2016.

"Leibniz's Causal Theory of TIme Revisited", for a session on Leibniz and time at the Leibniz Kongress in Hanover, Germany, July 2016.

"Leibniz's Theory of Substance from the Perspective of Modern Science", for Leibniz and Science, an international conference convended by the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the University of Leipzig, November 14-16, 2016.

.. i s s u e s ..i n .t h e .p h i l o s o p h y .o f .t i m e

Phil 762. Winter Term 2010. Graduate Seminar in selected Topics in Metaphysics
In this course we examine various deep issues in the metaphysics of time relating to the flow of time: does time flow? what are the arguments for and against? does it flow continuously or in discrete time atoms? what is the status of the present or 'now'? is temporal becoming refuted by Zeno's paradoxes? is there no world-wide 'now' according to modern physics? if so, do we live in a static or 'block universe'? does the possibility of time travel preclude temporal becoming? in what sense can past, present and future be said to exist? These issues will be examined both in their historical context and with reference to contemporary science and philosophy.

. i s s u e s.. i n.. t h e..p h i l o s. ..o f. m o d e r n . s c i e n c e

AS 3CF3. Fall Term 2010. 3rd year Arts and Science Discovery: Context of Scientific Research course, in which we explore issues in the philosophy of modern science, centering on the methodological, epistemological and political issues raised by the "Science Wars", with many intriguing case studies.
  h i s t o r i c a l .c o n t e x t .o f. m o d e r n . s c i e n c e
AS 3CF3. Fall Term 2009. Previous version of 3rd year Arts and Science Discovery: Context of Scientific Research course.

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"Many other things I long to be at, but I do extremely want time." --Robert Hooke, 3 Sept 1667

research interests

seventeenth century philosophy: My main area of research over the past 30 years or so has been seventeenth century philosophy, particularly that of Leibniz.

In my Leibniz, published by Polity Press for their Classic Thinkers series, I give a fresh overview of his thought intended for all interested readers. It came out in fall 2014.

I have just finishied a draft of a more specialized work on Leibniz's natural philosophy and metaphysics: Ariadnean Threads. In it I offer new insights into Leibniz's theory of substance based on his solution to the continuum problem, his immersion in the Scholastic tradition of the Plurality of Forms, and his ground-breaking work in biology, mereology and dynamics.

In a projected companion volume, Open Threads, I offer a selection of my papers on Leibniz's theories of the infinite and infinitesimals, space, time, motion and continuity, with new commentaries on the significance of his views for contemporary spacetime theory, mathematics and quantum cosmology.

Also I am co-authoring a book length study, Russell on Leibniz, together with my colleague Nick Griffin and Jolen Galaugher. We are writing two chapters each; mine are "The many ironies of Russell's critique of Leibniz's relationalism" and "Russell, Leibniz and the at-at theory of motion and passage ". We have also edited a transcription of Russell's marginalia on his copies of the Gerhardt Leibniz, contained in the Russell Archives in the library at McMaster, together with his notes on Leibniz from 1898; to appear in 2016 as a complete issue of the journal Russell.

A secondary research area I have been investigating is the lively atomist tradition of the early seventeenth century and its connection with biology, theology, and the chymical tradition, particularly in the work of Daniel Sennert.

philosophy of physics: I am writing a book defending the reality of local becoming in modern physics now titled The Reality of Time Flow due for Springer Verlag by year's end. I recently published a paper on virtual processes, showing the close relationship between them and the phenomenon of quantum tunnelling; I argue that neither can be interpreted in terms of particle transmission, since that would involve processes with imaginary mass travelling backwards in time. My main current interest is the close relationship between time and inertia, on which I have written two papers , "Time, Inertia and the Relativity Principle" (archived paper) in Minnesota, and "Time and Inertia" in Montreal.  The Time and Universe (tau) Cluster, a collaborative venture with other physicists and philosophers in Canada and around the world, is on hold pending a successful bid for funding.

history and philosophy of time: I published a paper on Descartes's debt to Beeckman in his philosophy of time, first given at a symposium in Chicago in mid-February 2010. This is part of a project treating the interconnection of views on time, force and activity in seventeenth century natural philosophy, under the title Matters of Moment. My paper "On the mathematization of free fall" comes out of this research. 

philosophy of the infinite: Fourth, arising out of my work on Leibniz, I have been defending an account of the actual infinite that is a rival to the Cantorian account, but which eschews infinite sets. On this topic I have written a dialogue between Leibniz and Cantor, and five related papers: one on the development of Leibniz's early thinking on infinitesimals; a second on Leibniz's Law of Continuity; a third in which I compare Leibniz's syncategorematic interpretation of infinitesimals with that of Smooth Infinitesimal Analysis, a fourth comparing Newton and Leibniz on infinitesimals, and a fifth (yet) to be published in the Netherlands, in which (inter alia)  I offer a largely sympathetic critique of Deleuze's interpretation of Leibniz's calculus with regard to the rise of structuralism.

epistemology of science, thought experiments: Fifth, I am part of a cluster of scholars interested in thought experiments. I published an article on Galileo's thought experiment on falling bodies and Jim Brown's Platonist interpretation of it, incorporating a weird dream, a partial defence of Feyerabend's views, and my interest in Diderot's materialist philosophy. More recently I published a paper on one of the world's oldest TEs, Aristotle's Wheel, perhaps originating with Archytas of Tarentum, first read at a workshop in Halifax. I also co-hosted a workshop on the (contested) expanding role of applied mathematics from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, in Pisa in September 2010. I am currently writing a paper for a Handbook on Thought Experiments, edited by Jim Brown, on Thought Experiments in Newton and Leibniz.

courses online

 .g e n e r a l . c o u r s e . m a t e r i a l s

Advice handouts here on the writing of philosophy papers.
.. p h i l o s o p h y .o f .t h e . e n l i g h t e n m e n t
Phil 3NN3. Fall Term 2016. 4th year course on philosophers of the Enlightenment, concentrating on the thinkers whose revolutionary new ideas ushered in the French and American revolutions and defined the "modernism" against which postmodernism defines itself.

...t h e .p l u r a l i t y  o f  f o r m s: S c a l i g e r, S e n n e r t  a n d  L e i b n i z

Phil 763. Fall Term 2016. Graduate Seminar in Selected Topics in Modern Philosophy
In this course we will be approaching modern philosophy from an unusual angle, by exploring late Renaissance natural philosophy and its influence on Leibniz. The metaphysical theories of the late Scholastic J.C. Scaliger had a decisive influence on the transitional figure Daniel Sennert, whose chymical theories and practices were adopted and transformed by Robert Boyle into the emerging science of chemistry, and underpnned Leibniz's (only now appreciated) contributions to the life sciences.

 . i n t r o d u c t i o n .t o .l o g i c

Phil 2B03. Winter Term 2017. The introductory logic course.

.  p h i l o s o p h y .o f . s c i e n c e

Phil 3D03 (+ Origins 3A03). Winter Term 2016. 3rd year philosophy course on phil of sci, with last three weeks in combination with Origins of Spacetime students, on the philosophy of space and time.
.. t o p i c s ..i n .t h e .p h i l o s o p h y .o f . s c i e n c e: .s p a c e a n d .t i m e
Phil 771. Winter Term 2016. Graduate Seminar
In this course we examine philosophical issues concerning space and time, with an eye to implications for modern physics. Beginning with a study of the classic exchange between Samuel Clarke and Gottfried Leibniz, we will proceed to the look at the relativity of motion in Einstein's relativity theories (no prior knowledge of physics is presumed). In the latter part of the course we will turn to issues in the philosophy of time: the status of the present, whether the passage of time is an illusion, what constitutes the direction of time, whether time travel into the past is logically possible, and many others.

 e a r l y .m o d e r n . p h i l o s o p h y

phil 4A03 /phil 6A03. Winter Term 2006. Early Modern Philosophy: Leibniz and English philosophy.

.. i n f i n i.t y .a n d  a n t i n.o m y

phil 762 . Winter Term 2014. Graduate Seminar in selected Topics in Metaphysics
This course is centred on Graham Priest's The Limits of Thought, a wide-ranging and provocative study of the possibility of such limitsof thought, as proposed by in the philosophy of most of the important philosophers in history, including the Ancients, Kant, Hegel, Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, among many others. Priest follows Hegel in arguing for the intelligibility of true contradictions, which set bounds to thought (closure) and also inevitably break them (transcendence). We examine Leibniz's interpretation of the actual ifinite as a potential vehicale for escaping the antinomies.

  o r i g i n s .o f .s p a c e t i m e

Origins 3A03. Fall Term 2012. 3rd year course: co-instructor: Ralph Pudritz.

The aim of this course is to survey some of the most important ideas, theories, and experiments that mark the development of our understanding the origin of the cosmos and the nature of spacetime that defines it. Our lectures follow a historical treatment of some of the most important breakthroughs. We also use an interdisciplinary approach by combining history of science, mathematics, astronomy and astrophysics, and physics (such as particle physics). There will be some technical material involving physics and astronomy problems.

. L e i b n i z ..a n d  .t h e . l a b y r i n t h

phil 753. Fall Term 2014. Graduate Seminar in history of philosophy: Leibniz's metaphysics from the point of view of his solution to the problem of the ocmposition of the continuum.

. D e u l e u z e, S p i n o z a .a n d .L e i b n i z

Phil 731. Fall Term 2012. With Barry Allen. Graduate Seminar on selected Special Studies in Philosophy: Deleuze, Spinoza and Leibniz.

 . p h i l o s o p h y .o f .l a n g u a g e

Phil 3E03/CS3Y03. Winter Term 2011. 3rd year course.

This course offers a lively introduction to some of the main philosophical issues concerning language. We will motivate the discussion by looking at attempts in the early modern period to devise a perfect language, the later discovery of the Indo-European nucleus of many of the world's languages, the invention of artificial languages, including modern logic and computer languages, the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, and Chomskian linguistics.









research interests | what's new | courses online | articles online | upcoming conferences | my c.v.

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